Personally, I am an admitted soccer fan, and between the Euros, Wold Cup qualifying, a blockbuster English Premier League and a very interesting Major League Soccer season, I am in fanatic heaven this year with all the “beautiful sport” happening around the globe.
Granted, my Irish squad was just unceremoniously eliminated from the European Championships. It still can’t dampen my focus on the game the world loves to love and the United States loves to hate.
If you’re on the fence, I highly encourage you to take in a game. All the Euro tournament is on the ESPN family of networks, and if you can catch a match out of Group B it will be worth your while.
For my money, nothing compares with the rush a great soccer game provides, especially if you really take the time to mentally buy into a team and get caught up in something bigger than yourself.
When every touch of the ball could be the difference between victory and defeat and for 90 minutes there is almost a constant uncertainty to the outcome of the game, it’s easy for me to get lost in the excitement and skill that soccer has to offer.
But, I know that many of you out there don’t have a taste for the game or don’t want to give it a chance, and nothing I say can convince you otherwise. That’s fine. I understand.
All I can do is encourage you to watch a match or two and see what the game is all about.
For just five bucks and a 45 minute drive you can see some outstanding soccer in person by heading out to watch Chattanooga FC play at Finley Stadium.
What do you have to lose?
It’s an electric atmosphere of a couple thousand strong that rivals the intensity of any sporting event I’ve ever attended— and I grew up being a Cubs fan in and around Busch Stadium.
The regional soccer team currently sits in first place in its division, and the fire of the fans at every home match is infectious.
There isn’t much that compares to the roar of the crowd as the forwards march their way down the pitch and find the back of the net or when a keeper saves the game by the tips of his fingers.
The fact of the matter, like it or not, is that there is an undercurrent passion for soccer here in the States, and I sincerely believe after years of fighting the growth of the sport there is now a firm foothold for it in a younger generation. A generation who has grown up with and around the sport from a very early age.
We don’t need to look any farther than right here in Bradley County.
Local colleges like Lee University and Tennessee Wesleyan continue to devote numerous resources to putting a quality squad on the pitch every season, with a combination of local and international talent, and finding success.
There is a passion in our local high schools for the sport, and anyone who has spent as much time as I have in and around our local teams can vouch for how many student-athletes carry a love of the game.
It’s hard to remember a time I’ve been to the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex and it not being a hive of activity, with numerous leagues and age groups playing the world’s sport.
I know, I know, soccer just has too many hurdles for a hardened American fan to overcome.
For starters, scoring is way too low for many that I’ve talked to. I mean, who would want to watch a game that either team could win at any moment? Where’s the excitement in that? I’m sorry, but that’s like saying a no-hitter is boring. It’s the constant anxiety of not knowing the outcome that makes following sports great, and soccer delivers that in spades.
“All soccer players do is flop all the time.” Yes, there are some players who should get nominated for a Tony for their performances after being “fouled.” In fact, it’s almost comparable to those amazing flop-jobs that seem to abound in the NBA.
There are athletes is every sport who will try to abuse any rule they can, and they provide us with the perfect villain to loathe. Do you enjoy hating LeBron, Vick, Tiger, McGwire or Manny? You’ll be in heaven watching soccer. I’m glaring at you, John Terry ....
Don’t worry, there are heroes too.
Several American players have caught the attention of the world, and a number of devoted fans here at home. Players like Tim Howard, Maurice Edu, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra, Brad Fridel, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, just to name a few, have given the United States soccer lover something to cheer about.
It’s a game that has survived for centuries without the approval or consent of the Red, White and Blue, and it will continue to do so.
But, for those of us in the 50 states who have tuned into the most widely played sport in the world, it’s a great time to be a soccer fan.